Searching for the great
Roberto Clemente
August 18, 1934 - December 31, 1972

The loss of a hero at sea 

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Caption: A diver finds debris of Clemente's plane in the water of Isla Verde, Puerto Rico in hope to find answers to the cause of the crash.

Related Info

Roberto Clemente's Biography.

Roberto Clemente's career stats and highlights.

Fourteen months after his 1971 World Series victory, Roberto Clemente died on New Year's Eve, December 31, 1972, taking food and relief supplies to earthquake-torn Nicaragua. Hearing that other supplies were being stolen before reaching the people in need, he proclaimed that "No one steals from Roberto Clemente" -- and, against warnings that the old, smaller-sized DC-7 was seriously overloaded, he went aloft but never returned.

Packed with five men and over 16,000 pounds of supplies, the airplane bobbed, buckled and wheezed asthmatically for air. Moments later, the engines burst into flames, and the DC-7 nose-dived straight into the water of Isla Verde, Puerto Rico.

One Navy man speculated during a broadcast that it seemed the DC-7 was over-loaded and the cargo wasn't secured enough and shifted during take-off. He also mentioned that the plane was old and poorly maintained.

Rescue efforts started immediately but five people died and Clemente's body was never recovered.

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Caption: An accurate sketch of a typical DC-7 plane used in the 60's to transport people throughout Latin America.  These planes are discontinued and have been replaced by newer models.


The airport was Luis Munoz Marin Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico and the beach that lies adjacent to it is Isla Verde.  A beautiful beach with curving white sand, romantic palm trees that stretches past Boca de Cangrejos towards the eastern shores of Puerto Rico.  As more people got the tragic news of Clemente's death,  many gathered on the beach to hold a candlelight vigil for the native hero.  Many wept and anguished over the loss of Clemente with great disbelief that their hero is gone. 

In Latin America and especially in Puerto Rico, Clemente was large.  Almost to the notion that he was larger than life.  Many expected Clemente to defeat this tragedy and jump out of the water and run back to land, the same way he used to track down balls in right field that seemed impossible to catch.  To see him waving to the fans with the number 21 on his back trotting back after a spectacular catch.  But it didn't happened, our National hero didn't come back.

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This tribute was done in remembrance of the great Roberto Clemente of his upcoming 30th year anniversary of his sudden death in December of 1972 .  Clemente will always be remembered in our hearts as not only a great player on the field but a great humanitarian in life.

Written by the staff of


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